Trying To Reach Land While The World Is Under Lockdown – Stuck At the Caribbean Sea During Coronavirus Pandemic – Part 4

Cuba and Jamaica

Leaving the Cayman Sandbank we faced again no wind towards the east and a current against us. We head north. On Friendship they made the decision to sail to Cuba, Cabo Cruz, as there would be no opportune winds during the upcoming days. As we heard of Cuba’s helpfulness in the global medical crisis we thought they would help us too. They would not.

A quick stay : Cuba

Arriving within visibility of Cabo Cruz at night we couldn’t drop anchor until the morning. Everything seemed quiet and deserted. With no response from the port on our attempt to call we dropped anchor. With no one immediately sending us straight away and being relieved about a short journey of less than a week we already imagined ourselves sitting on the beach with a bottle of rum and a cigar in everybody’s hands.

“What will he sell us?!”, Leo shouted excited when a small inconspicuous boat came towards us half an hour after we dropped anchor. Coming closer to Josee we could see him dressed in something uniform-like. The port captain. Answering his question where we had come from, he repeated incredulous “Guatemala!?”. The sound of his deep voice stayed vividly in my mind. Looking angrily, asking some questions in a rude tone we had to set sail. Immediately. Otherwise they would take the boats (later we questioned how they would have actually done that).

That was Cuba. Rough rocks falling treeless into the ocean. Since I was a child I wished to see the Cuba of Fidel Castro. It has to remain a trip in future.

‘Leave or we take your boats’ – kicked out within 30 minutes after dropping anchor

Following the coast line towards east we sailed into the night. Another night at sea. Starting to drift back to the lighthouse of Cabo Cruz, Rafa and I wished for the storm we were terrified of only minutes before, seeing its lightening brewing up over the land behind us. Everything is better than the flat sea.

Filling the days by filling yourself

The days between the anchorages were filled by a routine of sailing and resting, fixing stuff and cooking. When there is no wind, a day is reeeeally long. No place to go, we were sitting and crouching most of the time in the small cockpit of 4 sqm of Josee. Everything happened in this tiny little space. Only occasionally and for a short time we went inside, but the heat of the Caribbean forced us back out although the little shade we created with sheets was only a poor attempt to escape the burning sun.

Mostly our thoughts and conversations were about food. Maybe because we were always worried about it and most of our daily habits were focused on food. We had to check it every day especially as we had a huge fight with cockroaches on Friendship. And possibly as nothing else really happened, food made a delightful difference during a long day. We started to discuss what we will have next as soon as we had finished our meals. We dreamed about dishes we would loved to have, but couldn’t. Even little changes on the menu were celebrated like Christmas dinner. Although cooking was a tricky thing to do on a heeling boat we were quite creative and didn’t balk at challenging dishes like German Spätzle and self-made gnocchi even at 5 knots. When we finally caught three fish within an hour, that was a big moment. “No haut cuisine” as Elo resumeed but a change on the menu and a moment of success that we had been trying in weeks.

Jamaica : another quick stop off

Finding the right balance between the best heading and the fastest sailing, whether it is downwind or upwind, with the wind or against it, sailing is all about navigation. What seems like a detour could be the faster way when the current or the wind is with you. Our heading to Cuba brought us in two days on a south tack to Jamaica. We reached Ocho Rios on the north coast in the early evening and dropped anchor without any problems. Spending a night anchoring I was excited about the next day as I would check out the land, where the best place would be to sneak ashore secretly.

As I had contact with the German embassy, I knew that the border was closed and there would be no chance to get an exception. Anyway, I made the decision to go illegally on land. Setting foot on a silent spot. I knew that in the south it would be more likely as the control is less. There are places mainly used by smugglers. I knew about that as I got the information right from the embassy. Not officially, of course. After my contact via mail, I got a phone call whilst in Cayman filling our stocks. Certainly, everything they told me they will deny. Speaking to the German ambassador he literally advised me where I should go on land. But he also told me that I shouldn’t expect any kind of help if I made it on Jamaican soil. I would need to hide, avoid big streets and public places.

The coast guard checking on us (picture: Köbi)

Nothing said about where I should find a place to stay for an uncertain amount of time. I would be stuck on the island under lockdown. Nothing about the danger of the southern spots he told me of. I only knew about that from the sailing guide we had on Josee. One suggested destination is mentioned in the guide as too dangerous for an overnight stay as pirates use it to rob resting sailors. And I should go there on my own in the middle of the night in a dangerous medical crisis not even expecting any help once I am there? Julian Assange managed to live in the embassy of Ecuador in London for an entire two years. How, for gods sake, did he manage that?

It came differently. The next morning we got visited by the coast guard. But they weren’t the problem, they were, in fact, quite understanding and helpful. After recording all our documents they promised us five days for resting and resupply and even sending the quarantine to check on us. I wasn’t the only one thinking about leaving on Jamaica. But a small inconspicuous guy on the beach thwarted our dreams. Brought to us on a Marine Police boat he had the power to send us away. Although we had at that time already trouble with a breaking shroud that supports the mast nor enough food nor water to continue sailing for an unknown destination. It didn’t help. Coming back a little later to hand over couple of bags from the Red Cross with some 25ml water bottles and food, he forcefully insisted in our instantaneous departure. That was Jamaica. That was the island of Bob Marley I always had dreamed of.

The story behind a picture

The helping voice

Being sent away again within an hour we took passage not knowing where to go. Should we try the next harbour Port Antonio? Or should we just leave Jamaica behind and give Haiti a try, the poorest country in the Caribbean? I doubted that we would be lucky as Haiti struggles with political instability and suffers still from the earthquake in 2010. Having still problems to provide their own inhabitants in every need would they actually have enough to give us what we needed? But mainly, would the food and water we had left last until we would reach any kind of next destination?

👉 Read in upcoming part 5 about your surprising luck in Haiti and being even more lucky in the Dominican Republic after being miserable unhappy…

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